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Can Spicy Food Help You Lose Weight?

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Can Spicy Food Help You Lose Weight?
A substance in cayenne peppers may help you lose weight. Photo Credit Anna Pustynnikova/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to battling the bulge, even small adjustments to your calorie equation can make a difference in your weight, according to a 2012 review article in Chemical Senses. While spicy foods may not help you shed massive amounts of weight, it may help push you in a healthier direction. Consult your doctor before starting a weight-loss diet.

The Magical Powers of Spice

The substance that gives cayenne its heat -- capsaicin -- might also help with weight loss. Capsaicin also has pain-relieving properties, and is used as a form of treatment for osteoarthritis, nerve pain and low back pain. It may not be suitable for everyone, however. If you're allergic to kiwis, bananas, chestnuts, avocado or latex, you may also be allergic to cayenne.

Spicy Food and Appetite

Foods flavored with cayenne may help you drop a few pounds by helping to decrease your appetite. According to the review article published in Chemical Senses in 2012, study subjects reported that cayenne helped reduce their cravings for fatty, sweet and salty foods.

The spice also helps you feel full. A recent clinical study published in 2014 in Appetite investigated the effects of supplementing the diet with capsaicin in a small group of people eating a normal diet The study found that when compared to a control group, those supplemented with the spice reported an increase in satiety and fullness, and were less likelihood to overeat.

Spicy Food and Metabolism

Spicy foods not only decrease your appetite, they may also help increase calorie burning. According to the Chemical Senses review, the spice ups your body temperature, which may increase the amount of energy you expend. While results from studies vary, cayenne may help you burn as much as 119 calories a day, say the authors of the Chemical Senses review article. However, the enhanced calorie burning may not work for everyone. It seems, though, that capsaicin may not give as much of a boost to those who are overweight or obese, compared to lean individuals. And the effects may not last very long, because your body may develop a tolerance to the heat.

Spicy Food for Fat-Burning

Spicy foods might not burn as many calories for overweight and obese individuals, but they might burn fat. A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effects of capsaicin on energy expenditure and fat loss in a group of overweight and obese people. While the study found that the spice did not have much of an effect on energy expenditure, it did promote abdominal fat loss in the participants.

Adding Spice to Lose Weight

Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper on your morning eggs or make a spicy cottage cheese and serve it with slices of cucumber and celery. Add a slice or two of the fresh pepper to your pot of black beans to spice it up and use for soup, salad or mash into a dip. The fresh pepper can also add a little kick to your rice. Add dried cayenne pepper to tomato sauce, chili or stew to enhance flavor and to get the weight-loss benefits.

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